28 players from Missouri started the season on NFL rosters. How many can you name?

Detroit Free Press

When you think of states that produce the most football talent, Texas and Florida are probably the first that come to mind.

According to numbers released by the NFL this month, there were 199 players who went to high school in Texas on opening day rosters, and 185 from Florida. But Missouri also had a respectable showing with 28 players who started the season on a 53-man active roster.

“High school football is the foundation for the development of our sport,” said Roman Oben, NFL vice president of football development, in a news release. “We are excited to see the growth of players coming to the NFL from the traditional states that produce many college and NFL players, but extremely excited to see athletes making teams from the nontraditional regions, because it takes talent from all areas to make up the Kickoff Weekend roster.”

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Missouri has produced stars in the past like Jeremy Maclin (Kirkwood High School) and Aldon Smith (Raytown High School). This year’s crop of NFL players from Missouri includes big names like Ezekiel Elliott and other players fighting to stay on the roster.

Southwest Missouri is represented with Justin Britt (Lebanon), Trystan Colon (Webb City), Sam Roberts (Waynesville) and Dylan Cole (Logan-Rogersville). Here’s a look at the full list:

  • Justin Britt, Houston Texans, C , Lebanon HS, Lebanon
  • Dylan Cole, Tennessee Titans, ILB, Logan-Rogersville HS, Rogersville
  • Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas cowboys, RB, John Burroughs, St. Louis
  • Armon Watts, Chicago Bears, NT, Christian Brothers, St. Louis
  • Tony Adams, New York Jets, CB, St. Louis University HS, St. Louis
  • Markus Golden, Arizona Cardinals, OLB, Affton HS, St. Louis
  • Blaine Gabbert, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, QB, Parkway Wes HS, Ballwin
  • Tershawn Wharton, Kansas City Chiefs, DT, University City HS, St. Louis
  • Kyren Williams, Los Angels Rams, RB, Vianney HS, St. Louis
  • Hassan Haskins, Tennessee Titans, RB, Eureka HS, Eureka
  • Christian Kirksey, Texans, OLB, Hazelwood East HS, St. Louis
  • Elijah Lee, Kansas City chiefs , OLB, Hazelwood HS, St. Louis
  • Jonathan Owens, Texans, FS, Christian Brothers HS,  St. Louis
  • Khalen Saunders, KC chiefs, DT, Parkway Central HS , Chesterfield
  • Drew lock, Seattle, QB, Lee’s Summit HS, Lees Summit
  • Maliek Collins, Texans, DT, Center Senior HS, Kansas City
  • Trystan Colon Baltimore Ravens, C, Webb City
  • Jabril Cox, Dallas Cowboys, MLB, Raytown HS, Raytown
  • Charles Harris, Detroit Lions, OLB, Lincoln College Prep, Kansas City
  • Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, RB, Center Senior, Kansas City
  • Charlie Heck, Houston Texans, T, Rockhurst HS, Kansas City
  • Sam Roberts,  Patriots New England, DT, Waynesville HS
  • Skylar Thompson, Miami Dolphins, QB, Fort Osage, Independence
  • Sam Webb, Las Vegas raiders, DB, Excelsior Springs HS, Excelsior Springs
  • Rachaad white, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, RB, Center Senior, Kansas City
  • Jordan Willis 49ers, DE, Rockhurst, Kansas City
  • Drew Forbes, Detroit Lions, G, North County HS, Bonne Terre

There are other Missouri-born players on practice squads across the league. And Detroit Lions first-round pick Jameson Williams (Cardinal Ritter) started the season on the reserve/non-football injury list as he recovers from a knee injury, but he could be a future star in the league.

Performance trainer Eric Beisel believes the number of NFL players from Missouri could double or triple in the upcoming years with the right resources.

Beisel played football at the University of Missouri and now trains several NFL players at his facility in St. Louis. Beisel is the creator of the ProForm app, which is a system with more than 10,000 online users and 1,000 workout variations. With Beisel’s app, users can do the same workouts as Arizona Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden or Detroit Lions linebacker Charles Harris.

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“Missouri just produces an insane amount of talent that I believe it’d be even higher if we had access to more resources and budgeting,” Beisel said. “I think you will see that number increase, probably double, if not triple, of guys coming out of Missouri. I don’t know if there’s something in the water or what parents are feeding their kids, but guys are just hungry coming out of Missouri.”

Beisel said he opened his training facility in St. Louis so that NFL players from Missouri could come home in the offseason and still get the quality training they need.

Beisel has trained numerous NFL talents such as Armon Watts from the Chicago Bears, Foyesade Oluokun from the Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL free agent Sheldon Richardson and many more. Beisel said it’s like a family and they all want each other to succeed.

“Everyone here wants to see guys from Missouri go on and accomplish their dreams of playing in the National Football League,” Beisel said.

Foyesade Oluokun says hard work pays off

Oluokun, who was high school teammates with Ezekiel Elliott at John Burroughs, said there’s a special connection between the NFL players from the area.

“It feels cool, definitely a sense of pride being able to see people from your state or around your city playing in the league and being able to rep the home state,” Oluokun said.

Oluokun played college football at Yale and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2018. He signed a three-year contract this year with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When asked about advice for other Missouri kids hoping to make it to the NFL, Oluokun said to put the work in.

“Be coachable and always look to improve your craft,” Oluokun said. “You put enough work into things, you’ll be able to have the confidence to go against anyone or the confidence to perform in tough situations.”

Ralph Green is a business reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Contact him at RAGreen@gannett.com, by phone: (417-536-4061) or on Twitter at RalphGreenNL

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